It may be irresponsible of me to provide this information. It may also be pointless to offer the instruction because the chances for success are so poor. So there is no need to write a comment to advise me of either of these two points. I am already well aware of them, thank you. I'm providing the information so that people will have the facts while a tornado of misinformation swirls around them. Information wants to be free. Knowledge is power and this blog is about empowering people with knowledge. So spare me, please, the rants about how I am either irresponsible or foolish.
The best chance to blocking the closures will only delay them, not really stop them. And the only ones that I think can be delayed through the Courts are Meany, Cooper, Summit, and the AAA. These schools were closed but never got a public hearing on their closure. The law - RCW 28A.335.020 - requires a public hearing. The District contends that they were not legally obligated to hold public hearings for these schools because the buildings are remaining open. That's the critical question for the Court to decide: what does the law mean by "school"? Is it the school building or is it the program?
Here is the complete text of the law:
School closures — Policy of citizen involvement required — Summary of effects — Hearings — Notice.
Before any school closure, a school district board of directors shall adopt a policy regarding school closures which provides for citizen involvement before the school district board of directors considers the closure of any school for instructional purposes. The policy adopted shall include provisions for the development of a written summary containing an analysis as to the effects of the proposed school closure. The policy shall also include a requirement that during the ninety days before a school district's final decision upon any school closure, the school board of directors shall conduct hearings to receive testimony from the public on any issues related to the closure of any school for instructional purposes. The policy shall require separate hearings for each school which is proposed to be closed.
The policy adopted shall provide for reasonable notice to the residents affected by the proposed school closure. At a minimum, the notice of any hearing pertaining to a proposed school closure shall contain the date, time, place, and purpose of the hearing. Notice of each hearing shall be published once each week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where the school, subject to closure, is located. The last notice of hearing shall be published not later than seven days immediately before the final hearing.
You may be able to contend that "school" in this context means the program, not the building. To support that argument, you could point out that when the RCW talks about school buildings, the law specifically reads "school building" or "school property". A number of examples are available, including RCW 28A.335.010, 050, 070, 090 and a whole lot more. There are references that mention using the property for "school purposes" which makes it clear that the school is the purpose or use of the property, it is not the property itself.
Further support for the idea that "school" refers to the program and not the building can be found in the District's practices. The District, in every other legal context, takes "school" to mean the program and not the building. For example, state law, WAC 180.16.220, requires the District Directors to approve every school every year. As part of that approval process, each school must write a School Improvement Plan. This plan is supposed to be continuous - from year to year. When the District moved ORCA into Whitworth, it was the string of ORCA plans that continued and the Whitworth plans that ended. The data in the plan referred to ORCA's data, not Whitworth's. The District approved ORCA - not Whitworth. Whitworth closed - not the building but the program. So in this context the District clearly interpreted "school" to mean the program, not the building. Will the Pathfinder CSIP reflect Cooper's data? Of course not. It will be about Pathfinder as it continues from the Genessee Hill building to the Cooper building. It is Cooper that won't have a CSIP because Cooper is closing - only Cooper didn't get a closure hearing.
Also, when reporting WASL scores to the OSPI, the historical record shown for ORCA at Whitworth is ORCA's record, not Whitworth's. In this legal context the District clearly believes that ORCA is the continuing school and Whitworth closed but there was no closure hearing for Whitworth. Will Van Asselt open 2009 in the AAA building at Level 5 of sanctions under NCLB as the AAA was? Of course not. That was the AAA and the AAA is closed - only the AAA never got a closure hearing.
In every legal context, the District takes "school" to mean the program and not the building - except in this one. School means the program, not the building, and the District was and is legally obligated to conduct closure hearings for schools - programs - that are closing.
So what do you do about it? Well, first hire a lawyer. You cannot do this yourself. If you're not a lawyer you have no idea how many simple mistakes you can make that will get your case thrown out. In fact, even lawyers have had lots of cases thrown out for making technical mistakes. Let's face it, the starting costs for a lawyer, even a low-budget one, is about $1,200. Contact Chris Jackins for a referral.
Second, here's the law that you use: RCW 28A.645.010:
Appeals — Notice of — Scope — Time limitation.
Any person, or persons, either severally or collectively, aggrieved by any decision or order of any school official or board, within thirty days after the rendition of such decision or order, or of the failure to act upon the same when properly presented, may appeal the same to the superior court of the county in which the school district or part thereof is situated, by filing with the secretary of the school board if the appeal is from board action or failure to act, otherwise with the proper school official, and filing with the clerk of the superior court, a notice of appeal which shall set forth in a clear and concise manner the errors complained of.
Appeals by teachers, principals, supervisors, superintendents, or other certificated employees from the actions of school boards with respect to discharge or other action adversely affecting their contract status, or failure to renew their contracts for the next ensuing term shall be governed by the appeal provisions of chapters 28A.400 and 28A.405 RCW therefor and in all other cases shall be governed by chapter 28A.645 RCW.
So, with the lawyer, you write up your complaint and you deliver it to the Clerk of the Superior Court and you have to serve the District. Do not try to do this yourself. Do not let your lawyer try to do it. Hire a process server service to do it. This is the number one technical mistake that people make because it is hard as hell to serve legal papers on the District. They will literally hide from you. Seriously, like children playing hide and go seek. If you can't find them in their offices to serve them, and you don't serve them properly, they can get the case thrown out. That's what happened in the last round of closures.
Also, notice the time limit: 30 days. You have to do this during February. So if you're going to do it then get on your horse and ride. You are burning daylight.
There are other elements of this law that you should read before attempting anything like this. In fact, it is highly debatable IF you should attempt anything like this.
Let's say that someone decides to move forward with this. Let's suppose, just for academic purposes, that someone raises the cash, hires a lawyer, writes the complaint, files it with the Court and properly serves the District. Then what? Then the District takes their shot at getting it thrown out. They will claim that you have no standing - that you aren't really a party to the action. You might not absolutely need someone on your team with a child at one of the closed schools that didn't get a hearing, but you really should - if only to be assured of standing. They will claim that they were not properly notified - yes, even if you used a process server - so use one. They will ask for a summary dismissal because your case is utterly without merit - I don't think it is. If you survive all of these challenges (and maybe some that I haven't thought of) then you'll get your day in Court.
You'll get to make your case. Your case is essentially this: the Law requires the District to conduct public hearings when closing schools. They closed several schools without those hearings. The evidence that the schools are closed is the end of the annual CSIPs for the school and the end of the WASL record for the school. Moreover, "school" in the law clearly means the program not the building. I cannot begin to imagine how the District will counter this argument but I assure you than both Sharon McMinimee and Holly Ferguson are very sharp. They will think of something and it will be better than you would presume. It is likely to be extraordinarily sharp and lawyerly because in real people terms you got them cold.
Then the judge will decide. I have no idea how that will work out. It is very possible that the judge will decide that you're right but so what - he (or she) doesn't want to second-guess the District and she (or he) would rightly presume that with or without a hearing the schools would close anyway. The public hearings wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference anyway so why litigate their absence? On the other hand, the judge just might do something wacky like uphold the law. Be sure to include this idea in your argument as it could have a stiffening effect on the judge.
This is all completely hypothetical, of course. I don't think that anyone would want to piss away a few thousand dollars to try this little stunt. I'm sure it would be really interesting and educational, but it would also be fairly pointless. Even if you won, the District would just publish the notices, hold the hearings, and repeat the vote. There would be no change in the outcome.